About this article

Read time:

4 minutes

Category:

Uncategorized

Using storytelling to make a B2B brand relevant and engaging to customers right across the customer lifecycle.

Will Stone has spent the past 20+ years amassing possibly the most diverse experiences as a PR person. From training as a journalist and then working the local news scene in Preston, to jobs in PR agencies, academia, and local government, then onto comms leadership for a global manufacturer. Today he’s heading up marketing at TechSkills.org.

One thing has underpinned Will’s approach to each role – and that thing is storytelling. We caught up with him to ask why he sees storytelling as so important to B2B marketing.

So Will, in a nutshell, what do you think is the secret to effective B2B storytelling?

You need to know your audience and know the industry you work in. Being inquisitive is crucial – don’t just take things at face value. That comes down to being investigative and finding out the ‘how’ and ‘why’ in things. To do this you need to be able to build strong relationships and engage in conversation. That’s how you find out the little facts that lead to compelling stories.

On the audience part, engage with the audience you’re telling stories for, and walk in the customers’ shoes. Again this comes from talking to audiences or to those who know them well. What is the sales team’s view of customer needs for example?

Finally you need to explore different angles. So often, PR is treated like a checklist of “we’ve got to get the story out”.  This approach isn’t going to get the best value of out any B2B PR agency. People often see PR just as good news, but stories are far more useful than that. They can help a brand rise from a crisis, or become more ‘human’, or shine a different light on a situation. As a B2B PR person you must be a facilitator and curator as well as a storyteller.

What skills do you need to get the interesting storylines?

Your own communication and conversational skills are crucial in gaining the confidence and trust of people to get them to share. This is in much the same way as a journalist would when looking to extract information that people don’t really want to give. Obviously in B2B PR you’re not seeking to sensationalise or expose anyone but the same principles apply. After doing media training for a client a few years back and using those journalistic techniques to try and extract ‘answers’, my client commented on how ‘beguiling’ the approach was; drawing the spokesperson in and making them feel trusted before planting the killer question and catching them off guard. While the latter isn’t part of B2B storytelling, its still important to earn trust and get people talking, rather than asking straight questions.

What kind of B2B stories excite you personally, and why?

I love the journey from telling the story to seeing the impact it creates. Whether it’s a human interest story, uncovering unknown information that matters to people, or helping a leader to drive through change, what excites me most is seeing the cause and effect. Again, too often PR is just seen as noise or increasing brand mentions, but real stories can be applied to specific business goals and objectives.

Why do you think storytelling is so important in B2B brand engagement?

Because it humanises the brand. Businesses are ultimately about people and stories are the means of bringing those people and their role in the business to the fore. This creates the human connection with the audience brands yearn for. In terms of the pandemic and its impact on physical meetings, human storytelling has become more important as a way of staying connected while the experiential side of marketing has suffered more. I’ve always tried to create ‘conversations’ through story content. I follow and rate specific brands and organisations based on the stories they tell and their ability to gift me some added value through this

How much does the customer journey impact the type of story you tell?

It is both a help and a hindrance. Marketers are rightly obsessed with the customer journey and understanding what messages and content are important to audiences at different stages of the process. This gives storytelling a focus, ensuring it is applied to customer journey goals. However, sometimes stories just need to be told. They don’t need to fit into a marketing matrix to have value. Its not always about directly measuring the benefit – more, the cumulative effect on the brand and its personality.

How do you go about building storytelling into successful content marketing strategy?

Sometimes its tricky. There’s a trend for data driven marketing and KPIs right now and its not always easy to see how a creative story can fit. So much B2B marketing content is contrived to serve a specific purpose or digital marketing requirement, but in doing so it has limitations. It delivers on click throughs or shares, or lead intelligence, but does it deliver on sentiment and belief, or long term brand impact? I see storytelling as being the glue surrounding more direct marketing activities. Sometimes it’s less ‘trackable’ in the short term, but brands that want to be around for the long term need to think long term! Customer journeys may look linear in marketing analysis but they never are in reality – so you need stories to help keep those wavering relationships on track.

Struggling to measure success and prove ROI from your B2B PR and marketing campaigns?

Click here to see what you need to consider when setting up a campaign.

What challenges do you think B2B marketers face in terms of storytelling?

The combination of less and less ‘slack’ within marketing budgets and the constant demand for measurable results is in danger of stifling story creativity. The net effect of this is weaker stories facing stiffer competition for recognition. We’re seeing AI being applied to the creative process too – and it will get cleverer. However, there’s a big part of storytelling that is about consciousness. It isn’t just about what information the source gives and how they articulate that; it’s also about how the recipient or messenger (i.e. the PR person or journalist) interprets and uses that material. Both sides are personal and are what creates ‘unique’ stories

Can you tell us about one story you developed that you felt passionate about?

So much B2B storytelling is focused on the business or external brand but my proudest moment was using storytelling to support a CSR and wellbeing initiative a previous employer set up. The wellbeing scheme was to encourage employees from management to shop floor to work together to improve health through a series of challenges. One guy lost serious weight as a result. Another person overcame adversity following the loss of their child. We used video to tell these candid stories and show how the scheme had helped people. There were some difficult questions but not only did this help the individuals to tell their own side of things, it encouraged participation and supported the corporate brand too

If you had one piece of storytelling advice for B2B marketers what would it be (one sentence)?

Get your hands dirty! Get under the skin of the subject matter and don’t be afraid to ask difficult or challenging questions, while always keeping the audience in mind.

About this article

Read time:

4 minutes

Category:

Uncategorized

How B2B PR can help your fintech business connect with a UK audience

Navigating a new horizon: the impact of the UK 2024 general election on B2B PR and marketing

Browse more blog posts

Posted on
byJames Weaver
The fintech industry is renowned for its innovation. In a highly competitive and fiercely contested landscape, connecting with your target audience is crucial, especially when aiming to penetrate a market as dynamic as the UK’s. Therefore, leveraging the power of PR can be a game-changer for your fintech business. Here, we detail how B2B PR can help your fintech brand...
Posted on
byJames Weaver
Times of change are afoot. With the UK general election poised for July 4th, the population of the UK will make a collective decision and if early polls are to be believed, it’s highly likely that we’ll witness a change in government. Experts and political analysts are anticipating that this election will bring a wind of change, and whoever celebrates...
Posted on
byClaire Lamb
OK I admit it, I’m a secret Swifty. I can’t help but admire her. Not only is she a prolific song writer, incredible businesswomen, a true artist and performer, but she can tell a story like no other. I was lucky enough to witness her amazing performance at Wembley on Friday night. (Actually, there was no luck involved in getting...
Posted on
byJames Weaver
HR technology is moving at relentless speed. According to research, the HR tech market is projected to grow from $40.45 billion this year to a staggering $81.84 billion by 2032. With the HR tech landscape becoming increasingly competitive, businesses operating within this industry should prioritise tactics that will help them stand out from the crowd and attract new customers and...
Posted on
byJames Bentley
We recently hosted another LinkedIn Live event in which we learned from experts in their field. Named ‘Look into the tea leaves and find your HR tech story’ in honour of International Tea Day which shared its date, our head of technology practice Lee Simpson spoke to two guests who told us about their B2B HR founders’ stories. This is...
Posted on
byJames Bentley
As a content manager, much of my focus is on the written word. I grew up devouring newspapers, magazines and books and writing everything that happened to me in my primary school ‘news’ book each Monday. As putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard became my career, I evolved into quite the perfectionist, taking the often-quoted approach of spending...
Posted on
byJames Bentley
Richard Benson is the founder and managing director of PR reporting and measurement platform Releasd. He used his agency background to develop an intuitive platform designed to address the reporting challenges faced by today’s PR professionals. Releasd hasn’t been developed with the sole intention of measuring coverage of PR campaigns. Its next iteration will measure their impact too and the...
Posted on
byHonor Williamson
In the world of B2B PR, breaking away from the day-to-day routine can bring fresh perspectives and a change of pace to the work we do here at Skout. So, for our eagerly anticipated annual business offsite last week, Skout traded the office walls for the grand fortress of Peckforton Castle, in the heart of the Cheshire countryside.   The grounds...
Posted on
byJack Doyle
Has the conversation around tech always been so negative? Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that every second headline I read about tech today is just doom and gloom. The excitement around AI has been drowned out by the fear of it. “Is it going to steal my job?” “Is it going to destroy the education system?” “Is it...
Posted on
byJames Bentley
The world in that we live is unpredictable, to say the least. Businesses, organisations and even individuals are all vulnerable to issues which may lurk in the shadows or around corners. Some of these crises are natural while some are very definitely man-made, but they can strike at any time and with them put reputations and livelihoods on the line....

Send us a message

Download The B2B business relationship report

The B2B relationship renaissance – did digital kill it? The importance of relationships throughout the customer buying journey. Please complete the form below and receive a download link via email.